Today I am posting an excerpt commencing at the quarter point in the my fantasy novel, MORE THAN CHAINS TO BIND, the story of the capture and slavery of a prince and his guardian. The novel is available in both ebook and print from Amber Quill Press.
Then he twisted his wrist, deflecting his own blade down sharply onto Lexal’s, knocking the weapon from his opponent’s hand and in a continuing movement, Hollis’ blade finished up pressed into the hollow of Lexal’s throat.
“Enough,” Cor’lyn declared.
Hollis quickly backed off, saluting Lexal with his wooden sword.
Cor’lyn was nodding, obviously pleased. “Yes, yes, I knew I was right about you. Kano,” he called to the guard who had unchained Hollis, and he and another guard came forward.
Kano prodded Hollis toward his partner in chains, and the other guard took Lexal back.
Cor’lyn approached me. I guess it was going to be my turn next to see if I was as skilled with a weapon as Hollis was.
“I understand you two,” he said, indicating Fortil and me, “have not been getting along very well.” Cor’lyn’s grin was very wide as he looked Fortil up and down. “I have to admit, I cannot blame you for your…interest, but it ends now,” he said to Fortil. “He’s not for you.” He glanced at me, and I didn’t like the proprietary gleam in his eye. He turned back to Fortil. “Let’s see how you get along with a sword in your hand.”
He moved off and the guard unchained our wrists. I glanced up at Fortil as he did so, trying to gauge his attitude to fighting with a sword. He met my gaze with a decided grin—confident obviously. I kept my expression blank.
Using his short stick, the guard prodded us forward to the center of the arena, where Kano was waiting to hand us each a wooden sword.
I knew this was coming, but I had hoped he wouldn’t be pitted against Fortil. Anyone would have to be better than that bastard, who already had a bone to pick with Liander. I hoped Liander could keep his cool. Even a wooden sword handled harshly could inflict injury. If Liander could keep control of his emotions while Fortil lost control of his, then Liander should be able to take him. If he remembered the lesson I had drummed into him that in a fight, emotions were dangerous…
Talking of dangerous emotions, I needed to keep my own in check. I was suddenly aware of being watched and, without looking, I knew it was Cor’lyn. The man puzzled me. He had honed in on me from the beginning, taking me when I was older than any of the others. He kept making comments about recognizing the warrior in me. While it was true, I had never given him proof until fifteen minutes earlier. He also seemed to have a thing for Liander; that was much more understandable on the surface, but I was damned sure it went deeper than just the obvious. We needed to keep an eye on Cor’lyn, which was difficult because, other than the fact we were his prisoners, Liander and I had little if any chance to talk and plan. So far, the only opportunity seemed to be during the training, if this morning was an example.
The sound of wood on wood drew my attention away from Cor’lyn and back to Liander and Fortil. Liander was in a defensive stance, and Fortil had made the first attack, a swinging stroke from the look of his wide stance. I watched as Liander made small movements both of feet and wrist, shifting just enough to keep clear without over-exerting himself, flicking his wrist so the sword made small arcs, keeping Fortil moving to avoid the swiftly-moving sword. Fortil was wearing himself out darting about and swinging his sword almost like a club.
The concentration on Liander’s face was a carbon copy of his focus when he was studying, learning something new and exciting. I had fantasized about the day he would look at me like that; trace my contours with his long, long fingers. I looked at those fingers now, one hand gripping the sword firmly but not too tight, the other hand held slightly away from his body to keep his balance even.
I smiled a little remembering the ancient weapons on display in his rooms back at the palace. He had a rather fine collection of swords from every period. I might have shown him the basics of swordplay, but Liander never did anything by half. He would have learned exactly how to use them. I imagine he knew the different fighting style for each weapon, too. I imagined it was possible he could even show me a thing or two.
It wasn’t long before Cor’lyn called a halt to the contest. Fortil had already been hit six times—in the loosest sense of the word. Liander had made his superiority clear, making contact to prove he could make the kill if he wanted—and Fortil hadn’t managed to hit Liander once.
Liander was standing fairly close to me by this time, and, catching his eye, I lifted my eyebrow. He gave a slight shrug, which he turned into a shoulder roll when he saw Cor’lyn approaching.
As he took the sword from Liander, I heard Cor’lyn say, “I knew there was something about you, that you were worth watching. Yet one more reason to buy you for myself when the time comes.”
He gave Liander a smile I wanted to wipe off his face with my fist. Creation, I’d had my suspicions about him but this… Wait a moment? He might buy Liander when the time comes? What did he mean? Surely we were already his property and he was going to sell us at auction.
As Cor’lyn made his way back to the centre of the arena, I glanced over at Liander and frowned. I was pretty sure he would guess what question I was silently asking. He lifted an eyebrow, and I knew he was as puzzled as I was. There seemed to be only one explanation, Cor’lyn was some kind of collector. He raided and enslaved people. I could only guess what happened to the women, but the men he trained to fight. Then they were sold to the highest bidder, but the proceeds did not go to Cor’lyn, at least not all of them. He must be acting as an…an agent. The question was, for whom? Could it actually be a government position, filling an accepted need within their society?
Cor’lyn called us all back to the centre of the arena, and we formed into our separate groups. He began by giving us yet another talk about what was expected of us, how we were going to be trained to use a variety of weapons, as well as in wrestling and other forms of unarmed combat.
He paused and let his gaze travel along the line of men and it seemed to me his eyes lingered on Hollis.
“After today,” Cor’lyn continued, “when training in the arena, your wrist chains will be removed, but be assured the guards on the perimeter and on the platform above have permission to use whatever force necessary to ensure the rules are obeyed. You’ll be trained in groups and during the training, slaves will be paired off at random so all will face a variety of opponents and practice a variety of fighting styles.”
As someone used to multi-tasking, it was easy to listen to him while considering his earlier words and Hollis’ unspoken question. It was the second time Cor’lyn had mentioned buying me, but the first time it didn’t quite register as I’d still been in some shock after my set-to with Fortil.
Now, though, I began to wonder exactly what he meant. I had a pretty good idea of what he wanted from me. He’d hardly hidden it and, to be honest, I wondered why he hadn’t separated me from the others and made some…overture to me. Creation, if he was so inclined, he could even have had me held down while he did what he wanted. It was not a pleasant thought and I hadn’t really let my mind go in that direction. Too scared to pursue the options or my lack thereof, I suppose. I was just grateful it hadn’t happened. I had enough on my plate with Fortil.
Now, though, I began to see a different picture. If he didn’t actually own me by their standards, if I—we—were only in his control on behalf of some other organization, then he was merely biding his time. Following the thought to its conclusion, if ever he did own me, he could demand my body as his right.
Trying to put the disturbing thought out of my mind, I wondered if the system of collecting slaves was some kind of state policy. We knew nothing beyond the confines of this compound; our walk here from the harbor had revealed very little to me of these people. All we knew came from their history of raiding our homeland and whatever we were told, or overheard, in this place. The lack of knowledge was really unnerving me.
Hope you enjoyed the excerpt, and if you wish to purchase the book, go here